Red Sox

Red Sox

BOSTON - At the very least, the Red Sox will have to finish this homestand without Hanley Ramirez.

That's if they're lucky.

If they're not, and Ramirez is lost to them for any extended period, the season could be lost, too.

That's how much is at stake here.

Even with Ramirez's blazing hot start -- a team-leading 10 homers, 22 RBI and a .609 slugging percentage -- the Red Sox offense has underachieved. The Sox entered play Monday night sixth in runs scored in the American League, sixth in homers and tenth in slugging percentage.

Those rankings come after a record-setting month from Ramirez, who tied a club record for most homers in April.

What would they be without him? The Red Sox hope they don't have to find out.

For now, it appears as though the Sox have caught a break. Ramirez has a sprained left shoulder, the by-product of a hard collision into a padded wall in the top of the first inning, and according to John Farrell, the team is hoping that Ramirez can avoid a DL stint.

"He's day-to-day right now,'' said Farrell. "We're hopeful, over the next couple of days there's improvement. There's no clear-cut DL (move) at this point.''

But what complicates matters is Ramirez's own injury history. He's already two procedures on the very same left shoulder in the past.

"Based on the exams and the images tonight,'' said Farrell, "I don't have anything to suggest that there's a re-occurance of an old injury. I think over the coming days, we'll have a better read on how he can recover and we're hopeful that he won't miss significant time.''

 

Still, the very fact that the joint has been damaged in the past could slow his recovery, or hamper him for a while upon his return to the lineup.

The irony here, of course, is that one of the reasons the Red Sox liked the idea of moving Ramirez to the outfield is that it would theoretically reduce his injury risk. No longer a shortstop in the middle infield, subjected to takeout slides and other collisions, Ramirez would, it was assumed, be able to stay in the lineup more regularly and the team would reap the benefits of his powerful bat.

Now, this. Just what they didn't need.

The rest of the lineup has been underwhelming to date. David Ortiz is battling to stay at .250 and is having difficulty hitting lefthanders. Mike Napoli is hitting .159 with two homers. Pablo Sandoval has just six extra-base hits.

The Sox are getting virtually nothing offensively from catcher, first base and two outfield spots. In fact, Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia have combined to hit more than half (15) of the team's 29 homers.

And of the 123 runs scored this season, almost 20 percent of them have been unearned.

That wasn't a recipe for success with Ramirez in the lineup. Without him, it's a guarantee of disaster.

The Sox do have options in the outfield. Were Ramirez to go on the DL, the team could summon either Rusney Castillo in a few days, or Jackie Bradley Jr., who has rediscovered his stroke at Triple A. They could invest in Allen Craig and hope that extended playing time in left could awaken his offense.

But they'd rather not try.

Never mind that almost anyone would be an upgrade in left over Ramirez, who has been, to put it politely, an adventure as he learns a new position.

This isn't about what they sacrifice with his glove. It's about what they'll miss with his bat.

If it's possible for a last-place team to have a legitimate MVP candidate through the first 26 games, Ramirez qualifies.

Napoli, Ortiz and others will begin to hit, especially now that the warm weather has arrived. The Sox aren't as bad as they've looked offensively.

But everything's on hold until a more clear prognosis can be made and it's determined how much time he'll be out of the lineup.

Hanley Ramirez is day-to-day. And, until further notice, so, too, is the Red Sox' season.